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[RV Internet] Peplink router stuck “obtaining IP address” – solved!

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Hijacked Again

What’s the most stressful part about working from an RV, you ask?

Internet access.

One hundred percent, absolutely positively, without any doubt whatsoever, ensuring that we have enough internet bandwidth to do our jobs causes me more agony that just about anything else. This is partly because by its very nature cellular-based internet access is prone to unpredictable variances in speed, capacity, and availability. However, all those things can be mitigated to a large degree by getting the right equipment and having service provider redundancy. (In other words, you can’t rely on just AT&T, just T-Mobile, or just Verizon. You really need service with at least two out those three providers.) But the biggest hassle with RV internet access is simply obtaining the cellular service plans in the first place.

In our last post, now two Sundays ago, I wrote this whole spiel about “blah blah blah no matter what, we’re posting some new content every Sunday.” Then, the very next Sunday, things were CONSPICUOUSLY quiet over here on the Traveling WorkerBee’s blog. Well. That’s because I spent most of Sunday trying—and failing—to add a T-Mobile service plan to our internet arsenal.

A Brief History of our RV Internet Journey

A year ago, when we first got our Airstream, I bought a Verizon hotspot thinking (hoping?) that it would suffice for our internet needs. It was relatively inexpensive, very simple, and super portable. Then, shortly prior to our very first RV work trip, a power outage at the house took down our internet. “I know!” I proclaimed. “We can use our new Verizon hotspot!” Maybe everyone else in our neighborhood had the same idea at the same time. Maybe we just didn’t have great Verizon coverage. Or maybe the device itself was simply too weak and puny. Either way, that little hotspot was nary enough to load a basic web page, let alone facilitate two simultaneous video conference calls. I knew then and there only one thing could save our upcoming work trip from potential internet disaster. Money.

After studying the impeccably researched information available through my Mobile Internet Resource Center subscription, I threw $1,200 at a Pepwave Max Transit Duo cellular router and another $400 on a Parsec Akita omni-directional antenna. It felt like trading a plastic toy revolver for a bazooka. Beyond just being an all-around highly capable router, the Max Transit Duo had a particular super power I was especially interested in. It could take multiple internet sources and bond them into a single local area network that was fortified against high latency and packet loss. In other words, we could combine Verizon, AT&T, and possibly even an RV park’s wifi into a single local area network that was potentially more robust than any of those individual connections alone. For the video conference calls that Jill and I “enjoy” four to five hours a day, this was the rough equivalent of turbo charging our RV internet performance.

As soon as the Max Transit Duo arrived in the mail, I snatched the SIM card from the now-jilted Verizon hotspot, delicately inserted it into its new home, and boom! it worked without a hitch. Encouraged by this early and easy success, Jill and I swaggered right over to the AT&T store and asked to purchase a data-only plan. By this point, we only had a couple days left before embarking upon our first Airstream work trip.

AT&T: The First Rodeo

Walk into any cellular retail outlet and ask the clerk for a data-only plan that can be used in third party equipment. There’s a strong chance that you’ll be met with a blank stare and guttural “Uhhhhhh…” in response. The number of customers seeking this sort of plan, it seems, is small enough that it doesn’t justify any employee training. Sure enough, we walked into the AT&T store around the corner from our house about thirty minutes before they closed only to solicit exactly this response from the only employee on the clock. “Could you come back tomorrow instead?” he suggested. “Yeahhhh,” I sighed. The next day we got the same response from at least one other employee before we were handed off to the store manager who initially was just as confused, but faaar more determined to help us. We walked out about an hour later, a new SIM card in hand, and an unlimited data-only plan to go with it. But when we got home—yeah, you guessed it—it wouldn’t connect to AT&T’s network. Instead, “obtaining IP address…”. Forever.

I gotta give that store manager a lot of credit because he spent a quite a bit of time with me both in the store and on the phone trying to figure out what the problem was. I had never heard of an APN before. Unfortunately, neither had he. That was a real shame because our mutual ignorance cost us both—well, mostly me—many hours of unnecessary teeth gnashing when the solution was painfully simple. Once I understood 1) what an Access Point Name is, 2) that the APN automatically populated by my router was wrong, and 3) what the APN for AT&T ought to have been, I was on the golden path to an unlimited supply of that sweet digital nectar that we call ‘internet’. Ahhhh!

We spent our maiden RV work voyage on the shoreline of Lake Buchanan, about an hour north of Austin, where we could walk to the lake and paddle board every morning before work. With both AT&T and Verizon now in the bag, our internet was rock solid and we ended the week with renewed confidence in our (RV) life choices.

Here, my router is correctly populating AT&T’s APN with ‘broadband’. That didn’t happen when I first tried it a year ago.

Verizon: Round 2

Our little RV internet bonanza wasn’t long for this world, however. Just three months later, at the outset of another remote work trip—this time in the mountains of New Mexico—I noticed that obnoxious little message yet again: “Obtaining IP address…” This time the Verizon SIM card wouldn’t connect to the network. Brimming with confidence from the AT&T incident, I searched online for the “right” APN name. Except, this time, that wasn’t the culprit. The APN was already correct. Grrrrr.

I can think of few tortures in this world more heinous than having to call a cellular provider for technical support. Rarely are you connected with someone who has a commanding understanding of the technologies troubling you. Yet once again I found myself in the unenviable position of having no other viable alternative, so I bit the bullet and called Verizon. For at least an hour, I bounced from employee to employee, each of whom struggled to comprehend my predicament. “IP address? Router? You put the SIM card where?” Tensions were high by the time I was transferred to the last guy I spoke with. Out of desperation, I think, he told me that the plan I had purchased just didn’t work with non-Verizon devices and, regardless, Verizon isn’t obligated to provide technical support for third party hardware.

At that, I threw in the towel. I cancelled my plan and somehow finagled a refund for the current month’s service. We were in an area with a strong A&T signal, so maintaining multiple connections wasn’t especially critical at the time. But I knew, at some point down the line, we’d have to add another plan to our RV internet arsenal.

T-Mobile: Completing the Trifecta

We decided to wait as long as possible before getting another cellular internet plan. All of our upcoming work destinations were AT&T strongholds, so why spend the money? But all good things must end and after flying solo for about eights months, we arrived in a city just outside of Dallas where AT&T’s cell service was too meager to support a couple of data-hungry worker bees.

I was ready. I packed our router and my laptop and we headed off to a nearby T-Mobile store. We lucked out and got a friendly clerk who was eager to help and honest about the fact that in two years working at that store, he’d never once been asked about a so-called BYOD plan. He took my information, assured me that the business internet plan I wanted was neither geo-locked, nor device-locked, and handed me my prize: a new SIM card, entitling us to our second unlimited internet plan. I asked if I could install it in the store and he nonchalantly obliged, allowing me to set up behind a counter where a power outlet was available. I felt like an honorary T-Mobile employee who was too busy to help the line of customers who kept looking at me with helpless eyes. I extracted the old Verizon SIM, tossed it aside, inserted the new T-Mobile card, and booted the router. A minute and a half later my blood pressure spiked as I was greeted by my old foe. “Obtaining IP address…” Forever. Argh!

Despite my chronically bad luck getting technical support from call centers, I’ve somehow managed to repeatedly stumble upon retail staffers who are genuinely eager to help. First, there was the AT&T store manager, and now this T-Mobile guy who tried every trick he could think of. But as the store swelled with lines of ornery customers, I felt worse and worse about taking his time for a problem that was likely beyond his control to fix. Once it became clear that a call to T-Mobile was in my immediate future (nooooo!), I packed my things, thanked the clerk, and we drove back to the Airstream.

Including the time we spent at the store post-purchase, I’d estimate I spent somewhere in vicinity of six to eight hours researching the problem online, experimenting with different router settings, and talking with T-Mobile tech support—most of whom, predictably, struggled to understand my problem. In the process, I learned a valuable lesson. Well, let’s call it a “strong suspicion”. The two T-Mobile reps I spoke with on Sunday, level 1 support followed by her supervisor, could not comprehend the statement “my SIM card is unable to connect to the T-Mobile network” and repeatedly responded nonsensical solutions. But when I called Monday morning at 9:00 am Central and asked for technical support, the rep immediately understood and was able to get to the root of the problem. The lesson I’ve gleaned here is this: don’t call for tech support outside core business hours. It seems that the most knowledgeable employees don’t work on weekends.

The problem, as it turned out, was simple—and therefore somewhat maddening. The well-intended clerk at the T-Mobile store put me on a device-locked plan. That’s it. That was the entire problem. sigh. Tech support then had to transfer me back to non-technical support so they could change my plan. I had to provide the IMEI for the modem containing the T-Mobile SIM and then wait patiently as the rep repeatedly put me on hold, returned, asked me to reboot my router, and then disappeared again. After about an hour of that, my router was finally FINALLY able to retrieve an IP address from the network.

Ever figure something out after multiple days of struggle and then feel giddy for a solid WEEK afterwards? Yeah. That’s how I felt.


Here’s what I’ve learned from all this.

  1. Any time you get a new data-only plan from a cellular provider, expect pain. If you’re lucky, there won’t be any, but you’re better off expecting lots and lots of pain before you’ll get to bask in glorious, glorious internet.
  2. Follow the advice offered by the amazing folks at the Mobile Internet Resource Center and don’t go into a retail outlet seeking a new business plan. Instead, call the number for business sales. Those folks are much more likely to be familiar with the plans you’re after as well as the concept of BYOD. Also, get a MIRC subscription. It’s 100%, absolutely worth every penny.
  3. Never call for tech support outside of core business hours. It could just be my luck, but it seems the quality of the support you’ll receive is much lower after hours.
  4. When you get the dreaded “obtaining IP address…” message, from what I currently understand, it’s almost always either a misconfigured APN or a misconfigured service plan.


If you have any questions about my experiences with RV internet, feel free to ask below! I’m happy to try and reduce the pain for fellow RV travelers.

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Comments (2):

  1. Steven Challis

    August 10, 2023 at 12:01 am

    +1 on the pain of setting up SIM plans. Each time I’ve gone to a store I brought my Max Transit along and made sure everything worked before I left. The key seems to be business plans. My wife an I also work full time with a lot of video calls and low latency requirements and we’ve pretty much replicated your setup with great success (thanks for blogging about it!)

    We had good luck getting an AT&T Business plan ($100/mo – Unlimited, 100MBps up to 175 GB) from our local store. This has been our workhorse with it’s high data limit and wide availability here in the PNW.

    Verizon was a little trickier. The only plan they would sell us for the Peplink was a business plan and after a few hours with the rep we did get a working Premium Business plan ($59/mo – 50GB data premium data with a discount for switching my cell plan over to Verizon). We generally get better performance with this plan but I setup the Outbound rules on the Peplink to use this less via the Weighted Load Balancing feature (I LOVE this router!).

    I also have a couple of Google Fi SIMs (which use the T-Mobile network). We haven’t had much luck getting a good signal with these anywhere so I have the plans paused and SIMs in a drawer in case we need them in the future!

    We recently added Starlink too because we were in a campground that had almost no cell signal (even with the Parsec hoisted high up!). This now provides the bulk of our bandwidth in places where we don’t have any obstructions and I have it setup as a WAN (via Wifi rebroadcasting) on the Peplink. We have seen some dropouts so I often use this with the Speedfusion feature to ensure stability (I have this setup with a separate SSID). We have the roam plan ($150/mo) and I think it’s technically limited to 50GB/mo premium data but in reality we haven’t seen any limiting at all so now we don’t feel guilty streaming movies etc. I have outbound rules set to have our FireTV always use this connection so I don’t use all of our cell data and compromise our core work setup!

    I’ve been reluctant to use Speedfusion because it’s a paid feature but in reality we’ll probably end up paying for this even when the free trial is over since it has been pretty useful.

    My favourite part of the Peplink is the reports on the InControl web portal – it’s been super useful looking at the usage reports and how our WAN sources change as we move about, how performance changes etc. so I can tune the rules and really get a sense for what is working and what isn’t.

    • Nick

      August 14, 2023 at 6:10 pm

      I’ve been really skittish about Starlink. It’s a lot of money up front for the gear, I’ve heard that the dropouts can be a real problem with video calls, and I’m already so invested in our cellular setup that I’m holding back for now. Starlink (the company) itself also seems unstable, with constantly changing plans and restrictions. When I plan our RV destinations, if there isn’t ample evidence of strong cellular bandwidth with AT&T and/or T-Mobile, we just don’t go there. Which is a little sad, there are many places I’d love to work from if I could. One day….

      > “I setup the Outbound rules on the Peplink to use this less via the Weighted Load Balancing feature (I LOVE this router!)”
      Ditto. I’ve done similar things with ours and absolutely love everything this router is capable of.

      > “I’ve been reluctant to use Speedfusion because it’s a paid feature.”
      We had a mixed experience with Speedfusion and when it came time for renewal, I let my subscription lapse. The latest firmware has a new “dynamic weighting” feature that supposedly will manage multiple WANs with significant performance deltas better than before, but it was released before I got a chance to try it. I also really liked the web-based InControl, but again had a hard time dropping $200/year, or whatever it costs. Maybe I’ll change my mind, but I’m waiting for a compelling reason.


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